Having authority and status makes people listen to your ideas and thoughts. Having experience does, too. If you have authority, status and experience, as a marketer or a blogger, you’re laughing. It’s the Holy Grail, isn’t it? Or is it… We listen to those with status because it’s easier. Rather than having to think for ourselves, we like to be told who the authority is and who we should listen to.
‘This person’s a top selling author’
‘That person has 10,000 visitors a week to their blog’
‘She’s been in the game for years’ (that’s in not on).
Thoughts like those help make us comfortable with giving up our time and attention. People, writers, bloggers, authors, brands with status and experience are a safe bet.
The myth of authority, status and experience
The thing is, just because someone has status and authority, that doesn’t mean their thoughts or ideas are right, better or more worthy than anyone else’s. It doesn’t mean that they’re talking sense. Just because they have experience, that doesn’t mean the lessons they learned are applicable to you and your situation. Things change. You’re different. And yet, for some reason, we’re still more likely to listen to those people. Why is that?
What about the rest?
There are plenty of people out there without the coveted ‘status’ symbol and without the alleged wisdom of experience that talk absolute sense and are totally worthy of our attention. But we’ll never find them if we only trust the big guys. If we only ever listen to those with authority or only give our time to ‘well respected’ blogs or only read best selling authors, then our minds are closed and we’re missing out on so much more. We’re missing out on the really juicy stuff. We’re bypassing the real value.
Commercial Vs Underground
I used to listen to a lot of hip-hop music, commercial and underground. The commercial stuff was written by the likes of Jay Z, 2 Pac, Eminem, Snoop Dogg and all those guys. And the underground tunes were created by artists like Jehst, Braintax, Taskforce, Mystro et al. The commercial stuff was good. It was well produced, polished, shiny and easy to listen to. But all that talk of guns, hoes, bling and Courvoisier didn’t really do anything for me. I enjoyed the rhymes, the beats, the personalities of the artists, the expression, delivery and the production quality, but in terms of content, it was a bit hollow. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t relate to it. But that’s what the mass market demanded. That’s what was successful, so that’s what was made.
The underground stuff was rough, ragged and real. There were sometimes clicks and pops in the tunes where someone had quickly chopped a sample and either forgot or didn’t bother to tidy it up. Sometimes, one verse would be slightly lower, volume-wise, than the others. But that didn’t matter because I could relate to everything. The underground stuff was made by real people living real lives. People like me. Not managed professionals with sales targets. And the subject matter – the talk of living on council estates, being harassed by bobbies and the pain of being on the dole – was closer to home. The tunes were full of familiar brands, drinks, places and people that only those in the UK, or even only those interested in certain things or involved in certain circles would ‘get’. There were in-jokes, advice, lessons and quite specific insights that I could apply to my life and my situation far more often than I could through listening to 2 Pac.
Once you’ve listened to underground music, all the commercial stuff sounds like wishy washy rubbish. It’s just not the same. Those with global status and the experience of commercial success just don’t strike the same chord. Those doing the job day in, day out, don’t sugar coat things and tell you, not what you want to hear, but what you need to hear. They tell the truth, warts and all.
Lessons for marketers and bloggers
That’s the same attitude I have with marketing and blogging as a whole. Yes, the commercial stuff has its place. The Mashables, the Smart Insights, the eConsultancies of this world are all good. In fact, we need them, otherwise we’d have nothing to compare them to (or indeed no underground at all). But if we disregard the underground and refuse to give it our attention, we miss out on the unique lessons and insights that only real people living real lives can bring.
Start seeking out value in the underground
Finding those gems and truffles can be like shopping in vintage charity shops or car boot sales. It’s a bit hit and miss. The quality isn’t always consistent. You’ve got to wade through some of the rubbish and tat on your hunt for value. But when you find something – that one tune that changes your life, that one blog that sparks a change, that diamond in the rough – you’ll never look back.